Believe It or Not, It's Okay If You've Never Heard of Paul McCartney

Not fade away? One day, even McCartney will
Not fade away? One day, even McCartney will

Oh, music 2015, you cheeky little baby new year. If this whole Kanye West-Paul McCartney thing is a sign of what we can expect from you as you grow older, I've gotta say, I like your style, kid.

"Only One," was delivered by proud parents Yeezus and Macca on New Year's morning. Slapped on the ass and thrown into an unsuspecting world, the collaboration between two music icons of seemingly clashing backgrounds and followings has been some of the biggest news - music-related or otherwise - of the fresh year.

Even with its incantation to "Tell Nori about me" - the nickname for West's daughter, North - the song's no "Hey Jude." But it is poignant and quiet in a way that respects the Beatles legend, which is probably more than can be said for Ray Charles' "Kan-tribution" to our modern musical canon.

So, the real news has been the visceral reaction of those who succumbed to Internet trolling that followed the song's release.

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The joke went along the lines of, "Who is Paul McCartney? Kanye West is going to make him famous!" which sent people who don't understand how the Web works into a helter skelter. Fingers from Twitter to CNN pointed squarely at millennials and indicted their poor taste and lack of respect for the classics. Hairs on the backs of necks relaxed when people who got the joke explained it.

We all know McCartney wasn't climbing onto the back of West like one of Sarah Palin's kids getting a boost from the family dog, of course. But, what if some people truly did not know who Paul McCartney was? Is this wrong for some reason?

The answer has to be no and it came to us on a midnight clear when the calendar turned a page onto another of the years we happily and luckily march along to. As time goes by, we'll all be lovers and friends from places that have had their moments, we'll all depart to travel across the universe. And there will one day be a time when McCartney may still be recognized as a genius, but his work will largely be forgotten.

It's hard to fathom since, in the here and now, the only people we can be sure have never heard a Beatles song are the ones who still haven't been conceived. Even fetuses in the womb now can hear "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" on headphones delicately placed atop mommy's tummy.

But the humble Sir Paul might be one of the first to admit that his songs - so instrumental to so many lives still drawing breath - will one day fade from memory. It won't be soon, I think, but it will come and some generation will be the first to consider what he did in a rational framework. To them, he'll have been a songwriter. Maybe they'll even recognize he was a fucking brilliant one, the way we now believe Bach was brilliant.

How many Bach tunes have you listened to recently? How many can you hum from start to finish?

Revering McCartney and the Fab Four is not an instinctual act like yawning or blushing. Mom had the albums, she passed them down to her son who dug 'em and in turn passed the CDs down to his open-minded daughter and so on. But, in every Beatles fan's life, there was a moment when he or she learned who they were. So, let's not start sending kids who haven't been exposed to the classics to the Soylent Green factory just yet.  

Of all the shows I've seen, nearly 35 years' worth, McCartney's was easily the best concert I've ever attended. I don't consider myself that big a Beatles fan, but there was something spiritual about being present for his live set, particularly the last hour or so. The world is a better place if his songs live on.

But, that's what they must have said about Johann Sebastian, too. His songs ranged from whimsical to powerful to popular,...just like Paul's. And now, they're confined to special library collections and maybe a single public radio station on the dial.

McCartney's written incredible songs and may write more yet, but he's not the only one to have done it. Sing the first verse to every Bob Marley song you know right now. How about the rhymes to all the Run-DMC tunes you once knew? You're can't know all the words to "It's Like That" still! But, you are aware that those acts were critical to their genres, just as McCartney is to rock and roll, right? Their songs have drifted away from us and his will, too.

So, if you do happen to come across someone who actually is not joking when they wonder who Paul McCartney is, cut them some slack. Maybe educate them a bit, but try not to get offended if they don't show much interest. And when you're done, remember why you appreciate him so much in the first place by enjoying the peaceful organ work he does on "Only One."

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